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Non-European is a general term, which gained specific meaning under 19th century colonialism and more specifically South Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries

Non-European as a general term

A term introduced under British colonial rule in the colonies to refer to any person not of “European” (i.e. British or continental European) stock. Utilized in opposition to European, it became the cornerstone term in the separatist thinking in all the colonies.

Non-European as used in South Africa

In South Africa the term became a racist classification under the British, a classification which later became legalised terms under Apartheid-legislation. "European" was thus used to refer to all white people ("Whites" as they were later referred to), in contrast to all "Non-European" people (or "Non-Whites") - who in turn were classified race based categories under apartheid according to the colour of their skins and heritage i.e. known successively as Natives, Kaffirs, Bantus and ultimately Blacks; Coloureds and Indians or Asians)

See further Apartheid

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